Air Traffic Controller

Ace the NATS Air Traffic Controller Aptitude Test: Complete Guide

The National Air Traffic Service test is the one you will have to do if your ambition is to work as an air traffic controller.

NATS train their own air traffic controllers. As you can imagine, when a job carries so much responsibility and technical know-how, not everybody is accepted onto the training course.

Take the NATS Air Traffic Controller Aptitude Practice Test to improve your score.

This, however, does not deter a great number from applying for a place. It means that the aptitude tests you take to be accepted onto the course are highly competitive. The tests narrow down the field to those who show the best aptitude for being an air traffic controller.

Candidates who ace the assessments get paid training and are guaranteed employment when they successfully complete their training.

Continue reading to learn more about the aptitude tests and the resources that will enable you to take your place among the lucky few selected.

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What is the Air Traffic Controller recruitment process?

The recruitment process looks like this:

  1. Application
  2. Assessment tests
  3. Interview

It begins with an online application. To apply, you must have gained five GCSEs at C level, and two of those must be in English and Mathematics.

When your application has been accepted, you will receive online assessments to test your aptitude for a training course in air traffic control.

Success in the aptitude tests will result in an invite to the NATS Assessment centre for further testing followed by an interview.

What do the NATS aptitude tests consist of?

NATS use the Cut-e Aon tests to measure applicants’ cognitive abilities.

You can expect to do two different assessments, Step A and Step B.

The Steps are broken down as follows:

Step A assesses your cognitive abilities, testing:

  • Deductive and Logical Thinking
  • Monitoring Ability
  • Inductive-logical Reasoning
  • Ability to concentrate
  • Spatial Orientation
  • English Proficiency tests

Step B concentrates on personality testing, using:

  • Situational Judgement Questionnaire
  • Occupational Personality Questionnaire

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Can I prepare for the NATS Air Traffic Controller Tests?

The rules surrounding an application for training at NATS make preparation essential.

Failure at any of the recruitment stages means you will have to wait a year before applying again. Three failed attempts will see you disqualified from ever again applying to NATS.

Using the services of a job test preparation company can help you overcome those problems.

For this, we recommend using Job Test Prep, a company with extensive experience in preparing job applicants for pre-employment assessments.

From them, you will get accurate information about the assessments, and they will supply you with the resources you need for your preparation.

They can give you a test prep pack with sample test papers modelled on the real tests, detailed explanations of questions and answers, and a means of checking your scores as you work through the sample tests.

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What format do the NATS tests take?


Tests are timed and come in multiple-choice format. As you might imagine, the tests check if you have the skills needed to work as an air-traffic controller.

Step A

– Deductive and Logical thinking- Cut-E Scales 1st test

This test measures your deductive and logical thinking. You will be given a grid with different patterns in the squares. Your task will be to find the square with a question mark and decide what pattern should replace the question mark.

You will need to study the grid carefully, decide what pattern the signs are following and decide what sign follows that pattern logically.

With only six minutes to complete the test, you can expect to be working under pressure.

To see how quickly you can complete a deductive reasoning test try a free sample test here.

– Monitoring Ability Test – Scales CMO

The Scales CMO test assesses your ability to monitor moving objects on the screen.

This test takes two minutes, adding to its difficulty level. You will have to count the objects moving across the screen and list the number of objects displayed.

Your answering here will tell the employer how capable you are of monitoring activity on your computer screen.

– Inductive-logical reasoning – Scales cix

The purpose of this test is to assess your ability to analyse information and sets of data.

In six minutes, you will have to find a similar pattern in two grids, decide what rule connects them and then find another two grids in different tables that follow the same rule.

Test your inductive logical reasoning with the following question:

The two grids on the left-hand side follow a rule. Select the two that follow the same rule of the four grids on the right-hand side.

Example question:

– Ability to concentrate – Scales e3+

This test focuses on your ability to concentrate on the task at hand.
You will be given an image containing several pieces of content and a statement about the image.

Your task is to decide if the statement that follows the image is correct or incorrect. You are allowed two minutes for this question, so you have to study the image and answer the question quickly.

– Spatial Orientation – Scales NDB

Scales NDB assesses your spatial orientation.

This three-minute test promises to be enjoyable for an aspiring air traffic controller! You are asked to decide on the position and course of an aircraft presented in an image.

You will have to use information from a radio compass and a gyrocompass to reach your decision.

From this test, the employer will be able to assess your spatial orientation and how much you know about handling an aircraft.

– English Proficiency Test

This test is usually taken by applicants for whom English is not their native language as English is the international language of aviation.

Applicants may also be asked to take Scales STM to test their short-term memory and Scales XW to measure their hand and eye coordination.

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Step B

Questions in both parts of this section are testing how suited you are as a person to undertake the work of an air-traffic controller.

Essentially, they are both personality tests measuring your workplace personality. The term “personality test” can be overwhelming for many candidates, but remember, personality is judged from behaviour.

The tests ask you to give your likely behaviour, which determines your fit for the company.

Gather information on the type of person who does this work and attempt some sample papers before doing the test.

– Cut-e Situational Judgement Questionnaire (SJQ)

The purpose of this questionnaire is to understand your workplace personality and how you are likely to react in specific work situations. Your answers will indicate how suited you are to the position.

You will be presented with several workplace scenarios and asked how you would react in those situations.

Working on sample tests, you will learn to tweak your answers to your satisfaction.

To understand how this works, try the following question adapted from an SJQ, then review your answer. What do you think the answer tells you about how you would behave in a workplace scenario?

Then try using each of the remaining two answers. Can you see the different impressions your answers are giving now?

Example question:

Now try your hand at some free sample SJTs here. Again, try the technique you applied to the Cut-e question.

– SHL Occupational Personality Questionnaire (OPQ)

In the SHL Occupational Personality Questionnaire. You will have to do 104 questions, each composed of a block of 3 statements.

You must decide which statements are most and least like you. It is important to remember again that your workplace behaviour is being tested here.

Your background research into NATS will give you an indication of the type of person most suited to a position as an air-traffic controller.

Regular practice on sample tests of this type will teach you how to present that persona.

Try doing the following question, then review your answer. Does it present the type of workplace personality likely to be hired by NATS?

OPQ example question:

Choose ONE statement that is most like you and one that is least like you:

  • I really like to help others.
  • I work best in teams.
  • I like to get things exactly right.

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NATS Assessment Centre

An invitation to the assessment centre means you are moving closer to your goal but still have some testing to undergo.

Again you can expect these tests, especially the interview and group exercise, to be challenging, but you can get preparation materials for these in a test prep pack.

Air Traffic Controller Interview

You will have an in-person interview with HR, where you will be asked about your work experiences to date. The interviewer will also be interested in your reasons for wanting to become an air traffic controller.

Have some questions to ask yourself at the end of the interview. This will show your enthusiasm and that you have prepared for the interview.

Group Exercise

You will work in a small group of candidates performing tasks related to the role you have applied for. Assessors watching as the group carry out their tasks will have a further opportunity to assess your suitability for the role.

Skills that will be assessed while doing the group exercise include:

  • Your social skills
  • Your teamwork abilities
  • Your leadership skills
  • Your communication skills
  • Your ability to work under pressure

Air Traffic Control Knowledge Test

This is a technical test. Before the assessment, you will be given documents containing the technical details of aircraft and airports.

In the test, you will have to answer approximately 30 multiple-choice questions drawn from the information in the documents.

A retest of the NATS Stage 1 tests

You will be asked to redo the tests you did at Stage 1, the cognitive testing stage, of the online tests.

Rather than seeing this as the company adding extra burdens to your life, see it as part of their safety measures. They need to assure themselves they are putting the right people in charge of air-passengers safety.

A review of the materials you used to prepare for the last round of tests is necessary to ensure you don’t lose momentum in your search for the job.

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Preparing for the NATS assessments

Use your sample tests for every preparation session. This will ensure:

  • You become familiar with the tests before you do the real assessments
  • You learn to work within the time allowed for each test
  • You can check your scores and monitor your progress from test to test
  • You quickly identify areas that need more work

NATS Assessment tips

  • Approach the assessments:
  • Well-rested and clear-headed
  • Confident you have done the work and deserve that place
  • Knowing you can give the assessments your very best

If you are applying for a place at the NATS college, you will find all the resources you need to ace the assessments here.

Good Luck!

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Written by Elizabeth O Mahony

With 25+ years’ experience as a teacher and state examinations corrector, Elizabeth now writes for the education and careers industry. Her experience preparing students for examinations and running an academy for supplementary education give her invaluable insights into what it takes for job seekers and graduates to succeed in assessments.